I don’t remember most of my childhood, but what I do remember comes back in vivid flashes. For one, I recall talking to myself. A lot. Not about what was real, but about what I wished were real. I remember watching movies. The same movies, over and over. The more I watched the same story play out, the more the people on the screen became like friends. And I remember being quiet, reserved. I loved the solitude and serenity of my own room. When I was around other people, I didn’t say much, but when I finally opened up to them, they knew how much I loved them.
Thinking back on my childhood is not just a matter of self-reflection for self-reflection’s sake. It’s an investigation. My childhood tells me something about myself. It reveals who I was, and who I was not. The things I chose to do with my free time, with my friends, with my studies, etc. were declaring “God designed you in this way.”
Indeed, every single person has been fearfully and wonderfully made by God (Psalm 139:14) to reflect unique aspects of His nature (Genesis 1:27). As Bill Hendricks so eloquently puts it, “When God designs a human being, He takes some dimension of Himself that He does in an infinite way and fashions a human being to do that exact same thing, only in a finite way. So when a person does the thing that God has designed them to do, they mirror for the rest of us a dimension of God that we otherwise would never get to see.” (pg. 66, The Person Called You*)
Click to tweet: Every single person has been fearfully and wonderfully made by God to reflect unique aspects of His nature.
This truth is universal. It is about all people. Which means it applies to your children as well. God uniquely designed your kids to reflect certain aspects of His nature. And God actually designed your kids to NOT reflect certain aspects of His nature. Who knows? Perhaps God placed an aspect of His nature that is missing in your daughter in the little boy down the street.
We instinctively know this to be true, although in American culture, where people can supposedly grow up to be “whatever they want to be,” we tend to ignore it. But ignoring the way God designed things is dangerous. It leads to all sorts of misguided, however well-intentioned, thoughts and actions. The reality of life is that there are certain things you are I are either 1) not good at or 2) could care less about.
This is also true about your kids.
To focus on this truth is freeing, because it means you can shift from wondering and worrying about your child’s future to watching and encouraging their present. There is ALWAYS something that your child was built to do, because God made them to reflect some part of Him. Are there certain things your child is inclined to return to over and over again? They don’t have to think about loving them; they just love them? They don’t have to think about doing them, they just do them? And no matter how many people try to discourage them, they keep going after those things?
Bill Hendricks calls the phenomenon of our intrinsic motivation to do something “giftedness.” He says “giftedness is fundamentally about your behavior. It is found in what you do and how you do it.” (pg. 34*) He says, “Giftedness always seeks expression” (pg. 53*) and “your essential giftedness never changes….where and how you express your giftedness may vary widely, but the core strengths and motivation you were born with will remain stable throughout your life.” (pg. 45*)
Giftedness defies the lie the world tells us that our kids need to be great (or at least good) at everything (or at least all the important things). Your kids will not be great at everything. But they can be good at the things God has built them to do! This perspective changes how we parent. If your daughter struggles with math, consider not doing everything within your power to make sure she gets an A in math. All of that time dedicated to getting an A in math might be better spent cultivating those irrepressible passions God has placed in her – maybe for music, biology, or language. And if your son is quiet, train him in proper social norms, but do not constantly pressure him to be more gregarious or more outgoing. Instead, allow to spend those hours he needs by himself and see what the Lord does through them.
Click to tweet: Your kids will not be great at everything. But they can be good at the things God has built them to do!
Because of giftedness, you can observe your kids and ask, “What are their actions telling me? What are their behaviors proclaiming about the way God made them?” Then you can intentionally nurture that distinct giftedness instead of unintentionally directing them away from it.
Giftedness is why a woman I know said after more than 20 years of being a nanny, she finally went to massage school. “I’ve always wanted to do it, ever since I was a girl,” she said. And giftedness is why C.S. Lewis became the master storyteller he was. Due to a physical defect, he could not build with his hands. “I longed to make things, ships, houses, engines,” he wrote. “As a last resort, I was driven to write stories instead; little dreaming to what a world of happiness I was being admitted. You can do more with a castle in a story than with the best cardboard castle that ever stood on a nursery table.” (pg. 12, Surprised by Joy)
Your kids are going to always tend toward their giftedness. Don’t you tend towards yours? Because that’s the case, might as well meditate on Proverbs 22:6 and run with what God has for them!
Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
*Quotes from The Person Called You by Bill Hendricks, president of The Giftedness Center in Dallas, TX